This morning I visited an AA meeting before my regular OA meeting. While sitting among them listening to their Step Eight shares, the following occurred to me:

I, like many Twelve-Steppers before me, resist listing harms done in Step Eight because I am fully aware of the Step Nine amends to follow. One of the basic spiritual concepts linked with Step Eight is forgiveness, and many people mingle forgiveness with amends because they believe an apology is necessary in order to forgive. I often say that the hardest ones to forgive are those who know not what they do. I can tell that I’m getting the two confused when I repeat an apology or fail to repeat forgiveness. I don’t want to be the guy who starts every day telling his wife he is sorry for cheating on her in 1985. That guy is ruining two lives. I also know there is something amiss when I ask God to forgive that sorry, no-good, son of a trouble-maker! I cannot leave all the forgiving to God.

The hardest ones to forgive are those who know not what they do.

When I think of amends, I think of a tailor repairing a garment. I don’t know much about how sewing machines work, but I do know there is a spool at the top and a bobbin underneath. If the thread only comes from the top and never the bottom, as soon as the fabric is lifted, the thread pulls right out. So it is when forgiveness only comes from Heaven. When it is not met with forgiveness from someone of us down here underneath, it has no chance to bind to the fabric and all the blessed progress just comes unfurled.

There is a white board on my bedroom wall, and on it I have written a forgiveness prayer that goes like this:

“I love and forgive _____ in the Name of Jesus, and I call my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors into alignment with God’s will.”

Below that prayer is a running list of my resentments, each one an answer to my fill-in-the-blank prayer. The list has changed some since I first took a Fourth Step, but it is my way of continuing to take personal inventory and admitting when I’m wrong. The thing is, I have to list those people, groups, and institutions regularly, or my carnal self will begin to slip back into judgment, I will hold those parties in contempt, often trying to punish or correct them, and maybe even despising them with bitterness that poisons only one soul — mine. While praying this list, sometimes I think, “I don’t even think about that person anymore,” and they retire off my list. Other days, I storm into my room and emblazon a new name on my list, and I start again, calling God’s will into my life and aligning with it my intentions for a loving attitude.

I confess I suck at this forgiveness routine. That’s one of the many reasons my own name appears at the top of my forgiveness list. I despise the me that failed at being kind and generous today almost as much as the 6 year-old me who never stopped crying because he was convinced nobody loved him. I want to tell that school kid to suck it up and get a grip, and I want to tell the grown man in the mirror how ashamed of him I am for failing at grace so quickly after committing to mission living in his morning devotion.

Still, the stitches of forgiveness are made with a spool from above and a bobbin below, so I’ll bob and weave my part while God supplies the good stuff from above. As today’s AA meeting closed with the Lord’s Prayer, I heard “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” a little differently. God and I are stitching a tapestry, making something new of many tattered shreds. It’s His masterpiece; I’m just submitting to His work.

The stitches of forgiveness are made with a spool from above and a bobbin below.

 

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5, NIV

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15, NIV

 

 

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